by Elizabeth Bevarly, contemporary (1993)
Harper, $4.50, ISBN 0-06-108074-8
Emma Hammelmann and Taylor Rowan are getting married. First before they go on flying off to their honeymoon, there are some problems they have to sort out first.
Firstly, his family is old money Republicans while her father is a hardware tycoon and her folks are eccentric Democrats. Secondly, the best man Max is begging Emma to marry him instead. Emma and Max had a once-night stand once. Taylor's thing with his ex is still a thundercloud over their relationship. The bridesmaid has a thing for Max. Emma's eccentric aunt decides to embark on a fling with Taylor's uncle. And while we're at it, we also have Emma's brother hitting on Taylor's very-married sister-in-law.
As you can see, it will probably take a little bit more effort before we can get to a happily ever after.
The Wedding is one of two full-length novels Elizabeth Bevarly managed to crank out for Harper in the early 1990s in between slaving for minimum wage at the Harlequin chopshop. But fans of the author's current Screw-"Dysfunctional Daddy's Lil' Rich Gal"-Ball romances may not be able to recognize the Elizabeth Bevarly in The Wedding. I don't. It is only the author's photo in the back cover - same face, only with shorter hair - that convinces me that Elizabeth Bevarlies Past and Present are one and the same.
I have to pinch myself when instead of the two very different mothers quarreling, they actually bond together to make life hell for the daughter. Republican society wife Francesca Rowan and free-spirited liberal Desiree Hammelmann actually find common grounds in their lives to be friends early in the story. Emma and many of the women here have startlingly complex characterization as opposed to today's whackbrained characters of hers. The men are lesser drawn characters, but when it comes to wedding preparations, what good are the men for anyway?
The humor is effective without going overboard (read: no slapstick heroines), and I laugh harder than I did to this author's present books, because in this case, I can relate to these characters, so I'm laughing with them, not at them. Emma can function on her own, she doesn't need her father to guide her all the way, and she doesn't cling and ask daddy if he loves her ten thousand times a day. She loves her mother and they may have differences, but in the end, everybody's a family. This story could have been a typical Dharma and Greg tale if the characters aren't a bit deeper than the typical stereotypes they start out as.
But I find one problem with this book that isn't resolved to my satisfaction. I'll enclose the next few sentences between spoiler tags. You can highlight the space between the tags if you wish to be spoiled. Otherwise, don't do anything. Ready?
[spoiler starts] Taylor and Emma cheated on each other. But Emma slept with Max because she was drunk and she felt betrayed by Taylor's dating his ex. The very same night she slept with Max, Taylor slept with Tina - on his own accord. And he has the cheek to act the wounded party here when Emma confesses her one-night-stand with Max, and this is before Max forces him to confess his own infidelity with Tina.
The story sees these two making up in a very superficial scene that makes me wonder if Taylor won't end up like his father - a chronic adulterer. Also, the infidelities of Taylor's father are swept aside too easily. [spoiler ends]
The Wedding is a fun comedy that also has the bonus of being populated by humorous, well-developed characters that are funny without coming off as whackjobs. It is just that the book raises some issues that I find discomfiting and these issues are never resolved to my satisfaction, leaving me dissatisfied with the way the story ended. I mean, I actually wanted Emma to run away with Max, believe it or not, once the Big Secrets are revealed.
Anyway, The Wedding is Elizabeth Bevarly's dark secret. Long before she became the Queen of Screwbrained, sorry, Screwball Comedies, she actually wrote a nice book where the comedy works without sacrificing characterization, emotion, and logic. Elizabeth Bevarly can do funny without having her characters coming off as too stupid to live, and - gasp - she can do drama and make me laugh and sigh at the same time. I look at The Ring On Her Finger, look back at this book, and I can't help wishing that the 1993 Elizabeth Bevarly will come back and kick some ass.
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